Year after year, eggs prove to be one of the most in-demand food products across the world. In nearly every country and culture, eggs are valued for their nutritional value, versatility, and rich flavor. From this widespread demand, egg production has become a billion-dollar industry, with an international market value of $198 billion.
Within this statistic, $8.77 billion is attributed to the US egg industry which produced a total of 112 billion eggs in 2020. To prepare eggs for retail sale, food packaging companies commonly utilize cartons made of either paperboard/cardboard, rigid plastic, or foam-like flexible plastic. Lightweight and cost-effective, cartons are not only great for providing product protection, but they also offer ample space for important consumer information and traceable markings.
In accordance with laws set by agencies like the United States Department of Agriculture, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, and the European Commission, food packaging groups must mark their cartons with traceable codes that link the contents with their farm of origin and packaging date.
These traceable markings most commonly take the form of barcodes, data matrices, lot codes/batch codes, serial numbers, and best-by dates. With this data, companies can more effectively perform recalls and ensure that all products are safe for consumption. However, if the codes are absent or illegible, companies can be subject to expensive fines, reputation damages, and possibly even legal action.
Fortunately, making product packaging code-compliant isn’t difficult when you have the right equipment and follow these egg carton label printing best practices:
1. Choose the Right Technology for Your Production Needs
Industrial egg carton printing can be performed with a few different technologies. Today, the most popular marking hardware for this application includes continuous inkjet printers (CIJ), thermal inkjet printers (TIJ), and laser coding systems. All of these options utilize non-contact marking methods for fast, reliable coding and production line position versatility.
While CIJ, TIJ, and laser systems can all effectively mark egg cartons, their differing mechanical properties do affect how well they will meet individual production needs. Given how these hardware options offer distinct speed capabilities, substrate compatibility, and physical size characteristics, companies must know their own production requirements before choosing their marking technology.
For a brief overview of these marking options, it’s important to note that:
Continuous inkjet printers, like the DuraCode Touchscreen and DuraCode Keyboard, are capable of high-speed printing and 24/7 uninterrupted operation. Additionally, they are compatible with all egg carton materials due to their access to a diverse range of ink formulas. With a total system weight of around 90 pounds, CIJ printers are great for stationary line positions.
Thermal inkjet printers, like the Anser U2 Pro-S, are compact, lightweight machines that are available at low price points. Their small size makes them easy to integrate into existing production line setups or use in a handheld fashion. Application-wise, TIJ printers excel at marking paper cartons but are less effective with foam and plastic due to limited ink selections. Further, the majority of TIJ models are not able to match the speed abilities of CIJ and laser systems, with the exception of cutting-edge TIJ printers like the Anser X1 which can reach speeds above 300m/min.
2. Use an Ink Formula That Is Compatible With Your Carton Substrate
For those using CIJ or TIJ printers to mark their egg cartons, ink choice is an essential consideration. Not all inks are created equal, as both substrate color and material makeup have a substantial impact on whether a formula will leave a lasting, legible mark. With illegible codes come supply chain issues and possible policy violations.
To avoid potential fines and inventory mishaps, companies need to use ink formulas that are built to accommodate the unique properties of their substrates. For instance:
Paperboard cartons are very porous which means the ink can quickly dry and adhere to the surface. As a highly absorbent material, paperboard responds well to water-based ink formulas.
Foam cartons are comparatively less absorbent than paperboard cartons, which naturally leads to longer drying times. To accommodate this non-porous material, users need to use quick-drying solvent-based inks to avoid messy codes.
Plastic cartons carry non-porous properties that are comparable to those found in foam cartons. However, most plastic egg cartons also have transparent surfaces, complicating code visibility. Accordingly, you will need to use a solvent-based ink formula that can remain highly legible despite the “see-through” substrate that it is placed on.
Thankfully, finding the right ink for these substrates isn’t a difficult task. InkJet, Inc. carries a number of formulas that are compatible with each of these materials. Here is a small segment of our vast ink selection.
3. Be Conscious of Environmental Problems
Like other industrial worksites, egg farms and food packaging facilities are home to many environmental factors that may negatively affect coding and marking success. High/low heat, excessive humidity, and workplace vibrations can all cause the ink to dry poorly or bleed, leaving illegible codes behind.
To combat temperature and humidity problems, printer manufacturers offer CIJ and TIJ models with strong enclosures. For example, the DuraCode Touchscreen CIJ can operate well within a temperature range of 41-113° F while the Anser X1 is functional within a range of 32-104° F. Both of these models can successfully resist high humidity levels as well.
For vibration issues, CIJ and TIJ printers can use add-on attachments to counteract the problematic movement. Termed “vibration-isolating attachments”, these mechanisms keep printheads stationary despite environmental movements, helping to ensure that codes come out clear and legible.
Need More Egg Carton Label Printing Guidance? InkJet, Inc. Is Here to Help
Although egg carton printing does require several precautions, it isn’t difficult to complete once you have the right hardware. Here at InkJet, Inc., we carry everything you need to complete egg carton marking applications day after day. Whether you’re looking for a great CIJ printer, a cutting-edge TIJ printer, or a specific ink formula, we can help set you up for success.